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Lithovit deal clean: ‘No special treatment’; Cocobod had ‘identical’ deals with Sidalco, Olam – Witness

No preferential treatment was accorded Agricult Company Limited, the third accused person in the ongoing GHS217-million financial loss case involving former Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) Chief Executive Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, regarding the state-owned cocoa-buying company’s contract with the private company owned by the Mr Agongo (The Second Accused Person) for the supply of Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser, the First Defence Witness in the five-year-old trial, Mr Charles Tetteh Dodoo, told the High Court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, on Monday, 14 March 2022.

Mr Dodoo, who served on the Board of COCOBOD from June 2009 to December 2016, said the contract that was awarded to Agricult Company Limited by COCOBOD, was signed by the then-CEO, Dr Opuni, and executed on 26 March 2014.

In his evidence-in-chief, Mr Dodoo told the court, “My Lord, it is not correct” that the supply of Lithovit fertiliser “did not follow the normal procedure” as alleged by the Prosecution.

According to him, “Contracts for the supply of Lithovit followed the processes and procedures for all other contracts”, insisting: “There has not been any special treatment for the contracts for the supply of Lithovit”.

Lithovit contracts, he noted, “have been processed like any other contracts involving agrochemicals in COCOBOD from the inception: seeking approval from PPA through to the performance bonds and preparation of contract documents and then it being signed and witnessed have been the same for all other contracts”.

“My Lord, I want to add that nothing untoward has been done in the contract of the supply of Lithovit”, he reiterated.

Asked by Mr Samuel Cudjoe, the Lead Counsel for Dr Opuni (the First Accused Person) if he knew the nature of Lithovit fertiliser, since he witnessed the contract for the sole-sourcing of one million litres of the agrochemical, Mr Dodoo answered: “It is liquid, per the name, and I have seen it in the warehouses”.

Again, asked for clarity with regard to the specific warehouses, Mr Dodoo said: “COCOBOD’s warehouse on the Spintex Road, Accra” and “another COCOBOD warehouse in Nsawam”.

Mr Cudjoe then asked the witness: “Now, what do you have to say when the Prosecution states that the purchase of Lithovit was shrouded in controversy?”

He answered thus: “My Lord, I don’t understand the controversy of Lithovit purchases because of where I sat on the Board as a Board member, and as Director of Finance directly in charge of procurement as a member of the Entity Tender Committee, there has not been any controversy about Lithovit”.

Throwing further light on what the Entity Tender Committee had to do with the procurement of Lithovit fertiliser, Mr Dodoo said: “The Committee had to give concurrent approval to all approvals from PPA and original approvals to other contracts. So, these approvals from the Entity Tender Committee or ETC will go to management for their implementation”.

He stressed, “There was no controversy about Lithovit. We have not had any controversy about the pricing or the form of the substance”.

Mr Dodoo said there were “identical contracts” that “were entered into with various companies about the same for the supply of fertilisers and other agrochemicals”.

“My Lord, I recall there was that for Sidalco, Olam and others”.

Tendering three documents to back his evidence, Mr Dodoo, led in evidence by Mr Cudjoe, said: “My Lord, I have three documents, one for Sidalco, another one for Louis Dreyfus Commodities then the third one for Chemico Limited. All the three documents were contracts for the supply of various fertilisers. They were all signed in March 2014”.

Respectively, he said the three other contracts were executed on 26, 28 and 24 March 2014 and, just like Agricult’s, were all awarded by COCOBOD.

He said the contract for the supply of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser between COCOBOD and Agricult was prepared by the Procurement Unit of COCOBOD and signed by the then-Chief Executive Dr Opuni “on behalf of the purchaser”.

“It is the same for all contracts”, he told the court.

Mr Dodoo, who said the Lithovit contract was “witnessed by me when I was the Director of Finance”, also told the court: “My Lord, in 2015, at about the same time, identical contracts were entered into with other companies for the supply of fertilisers. I can recall popular ones that we normally do; that is Sidalco, Olam, Chemico.”

Additionally, Mr Dodoo said there were “identical contracts” between COCOBOD and Seyi Jones Limited, as well as ABP for the supply of fertiliser, for which he tendered some documents as proof.

He reiterated that just as was done in the case of Agricult, these other contracts were prepared by COCOBOD’s Procurement Unit and signed by Dr Opuni.

The case has been adjourned to Thursday, 17 March 2022.

In March 2018, the AG charged Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo with 27 counts for allegedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GHS271.3 million to the state and allegedly led to the distribution of sub-standard fertilisers to farmers.

Mr Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Mr Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are currently on bail in the sum of GH300,000 each.

Source: Classfmonline.com

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